Slow Ideas

Miriam Gordon:

I re-blogged the post below, entitled “It’s A Slow Idea,” because it reminded me of the fateful tale of Dr. Ignacz Semmelweiss, a 19th century Viennese OB/GYN. Semmelweiss had a really great slow idea, one that would radically challenge the medical status quo of the time.

Semmelweiss made a logical scientific observation about the rampant incidence of childbed fever, which killed many women and their newborn infants in the maternity ward of the hospital he worked at. Only women whose babies were delivered by medical students, whose hands and lab coats were soiled from cadaver dissection, contracted childbed fever. Those women whose babies were delivered by midwives, who never had any contact with cadavers, rarely if ever contracted this lethal infection. Semmelweiss concluded that the infection must be transmitted somehow by “cadaverous particles” that the medical students bestowed upon mothers in labor and their infants. When Semmelweiss shared his hypothesis with his colleagues, he met consistently with vehement rejection. Fortunately, he persisted in his beliefs.

When he became the Director of the birth clinic, Semmelweiss insisted that medical students change their lab coats and wash their hands vigorously, and that all bedding be boiled after every patient leaves. The nursing staff was so incensed at Semmelweiss’ dictatorial manner and his “ridiculous” ideas that they made every attempt to undermine him. Through strict enforcement of his demands, Semmelweiss literally brought the childbed fever mortality rate from almost 100% of deliveries assisted by medical students to ZERO. Yet, when he presented his results at a conference to his colleagues, they laughed him out of the room.

Semmelweis was very hurt by this crass, but sadly predictable behavior. Henceforth, his professional and personal life deteriorated rapidly. As with most “slow” ideas that challenge the status quo, particularly when they threaten the egos and/or income of “experts,” it usually takes a full generation for their truth to be put into practice. Twenty years after his death, Louis Pasteur’s germ theory was celebrated around the civilized world, and Semmelweiss was posthumously acknowledged for his contribution.

“The human mind treats a new idea the same way the body treats a strange protein: It rejects it.” – Immunologist P.B. Medawar (Via Christie Nicholson)

“Every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first it is ridiculed, in the second it is opposed, in the third it is regarded as self-evident” – Arthur Schopenhauer

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair

Originally posted on Please Understand Me:


Many people have asked why is Keirsey Temperament Theory not known broadly as “it should be.”

For a long time, I couldn’t give a good answer.

The answer is: “It’s a Slow Idea.”

My father outlines “The History of Madness”  in his lectures.  And the Wholistic Theory of Madness is a slow idea, its roots going back to over a century with my father adding the idea of Temperament in the last half century.   Fast Ideas about “madness” have been around since Homo Sapens possessed language.

The roots of the Idea ofKeirsey Temperament also go back to ancient times.

In addition, there is the idea of: Slow Ideas <=> Fast Ideas

The root of this idea appeared just recently, thanks to Atul Gawande.

View original 689 more words

A Fish Has Died – A Sweet Little Summer Story

My husband and I went to the beach on a lovely, sunny summer day. We put our blanket down next to a little kid and his grandmother, who was very nice. This little boy was a riot. He had a little yellow pail, and ran with it down to the water to scoop up one of the little fish that were schooling in the shallows. He was so excited when he caught one. He anxiously carried the pail back to where we were, sat down, and watched it swimming around in the little pail full of seawater. He was transfixed. In fact, he was so happy that he practically stuck his face in the pail and yelled “AAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHH” at the top of his lungs.

Continue reading

“Naturally Obsessed”: A Graduate Student’s Perspective

Last night, at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, I attended a screening of a wonderful documentary by Richard and Carole Rifkind entitled “Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist”. This film documented the path and travails of 3 graduate students who were lucky enough to be in the laboratory of Dr. Lawrence Shapiro at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York City. Continue reading


I have always loved animals. When I was about 3 years old, I was fascinated with a beautiful collie that lived in my building. This dog did not like people, but I loved him. I distinctly remember one day running around him, hugging, petting and talking to him, and I remember hearing him growl (he was taller than me), but for some reason, he put up with the unwanted attention. I only remember being acquainted with him that one time – I think after that, my Mom and his owner colluded to keep me away from him. Continue reading

Life at the Art-Science Interface

Currently on view at the New York Academy of Sciences Art Gallery is an exhibit of the molecular illustrations of Kenneth Eward. I followed the links to Kenneth’s website and found one of the most captivating animated illustrations of the molecular development of human life. His “A Window Into Human Life” won an honorable mention at the 2008 Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

On the Eve of an Historic Presidential Election

We are living at a truly monumental moment in history, as we stand on the brink of what will probably be one of the most important presidential elections in all of United States history. The air is absolutely crackling with the anticipation of the election of the first African American President of the United States of America. Continue reading

This Time, It’s Physiological

According to the diagnostic test in the ground-breaking book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., I am a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP). In her book, Dr. Aron, a pioneering psychologist, cites major studies demonstrating that approximately 15-20% of the human population possess a nervous system that, due to genetically inherited physiological characteristics, cause them to experience greatly heightened sensitivity to stress in any environment they find themselves in. This inherited trait of heightened arousal is demonstrated also in similar proportions (15-20%) in several other mammalian species. In other words, highly sensitive individuals are much more easily aroused by subtle cues in their environment, which many people are less likely to pick up on. Continue reading

Remembering September 11, 2001

I have been trying to sort of just go about my business without getting too caught up in the heavy spirit of this day, but its everywhere I look and almost all I hear on the radio, TV.  I find the only way I can really do any justice to the profound loss that resulted from this unspeakable tragedy is to just recount where I was that day, and how my family and friends and I dealt with the horrible news. Thank G-d, no one in our immediate family was lost, nor were any of our close friends. I can only pray for those who were less fortunate, and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of their loss. Continue reading

Fat Cell Switcheroo*

Humans, mice — indeed all mammals — have two types of fat cells in their bodies; white and brown. White fat cells store energy. In contrast, brown fat cells dissipate energy as heat, thus counteracting obesity. Much to the chagrin of humans living in industrialized societies, most fat cells in our (adult) bodies are white fat cells. While this trait served our kind well throughout our evolutionary history, we now face a vast abundance of inexpensive, easily accessible, high energy content foods. This, combined with our body’s tendency to want to store up energy for times when food is scarce, leads to obesity and its accompanying adverse health effects. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have more brown fat cells and less white fat cells? Continue reading